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New Website or CMS Platform? Why Marketing Managers Need to Think About SEO Migrations

A quick guide to the importance of a clean website migration when launching a new site – and the potential impact on organic search traffic.

“An SEO migration should be considered an insurance policy for your new site and of course the bigger the project, the bigger the risk…”

In our experience, website migrations come in all shapes and sizes… 

  • We’ve had clients revamp their stale sites.
  • We’ve had clients outgrow their CMS platform and move to something more appropriate to their size and needs like Shopify Plus or Magento 2.0.
  • We’ve even had clients consolidate many regional/international websites and micro-sites into one big brand site (that was fun!).

Despite the very different intent behind these client’s actions, there’s one thing that they all have in common… Without an SEO migration, their organic traffic would have plummeted by 40-75% on go-live day and they’d have a huge task on their hands restoring it to its former glory.

Thankfully, the aforementioned clients chose to involve their digital marketing company early on in the process and were successfully able to avert disaster.  This guide is designed to help you do just the same.

Before we go any further, let’s just be clear on terminology; an SEO migration is different to (and should be done in conjunction with) platform migrations, CMS migrations and domain migrations. A SEO migration basically helps retain everything you’ve worked hard to achieve in organic search.

One of the things that can be often overlooked when planning a new site (or changing the platform, CMS or domain) is that if the structure of their website (and consequently the URL addresses of their pages) change, URL redirects need to be put in place in order to tell Google to re-index the new pages in place of the old pages. Redirects are not often a standard part of the web development process, so they can be easily forgotten or overlooked by developers until it’s too late. Moreover, these redirects shouldn’t just point to the homepage, they should point to the most appropriate like-for-like pages on the new site – otherwise users AND Google will be confused …which is never a good thing in the world of SEO!

There is nothing more dangerous in the world of SEO than site migrations and they need to be carefully managed by someone who has the experience to deal with the myriad of problems that can arise. Otherwise you could be looking at this…

 

avoid organic traffic drop like this with a proper SEO migration

 

At its most basic, a migration involves identifying as many site URLs as possible (using Google Search Console, crawler tools, Google index scrapes, legacy pages and sitemaps) and marrying this list with a list of new locations from the incoming site. The next step is to then monitor search traffic over the course of the next few weeks and nip any problems in the bud.

However, often there is far more to consider to ensure that your new site launches on the best foot, so our approach to SEO migrations involves these six steps to ensure that nothing is missed:

The steps of an SEO website migration to prevent drop in traffic

Think of an SEO migration as an insurance policy for your new site – something that identifies everything that could go wrong, and comes up with solutions designed to minimise damage.

And of course the bigger the project, the bigger the risk. For big projects or  sites where organic traffic is the primary source of traffic, we would always recommend completing the full six-step migration process.

Depending on the size of the site, the migration itself can take between a few days to two weeks, and should take place in the final stages of your site launch. However, we would always recommend involving your digital marketing agency along the whole site development process. Being involved in the early stages, agencies like ours would be able to benchmark current performance. This is extremely helpful, because it allows us to identify any issues proactively prior to launching the new site, but also means we can run risk assessments, informing new site structure when working alongside you in the design and development process.

It might feel like an extra step in the already complicated development process, but all the effort is worth it come launch day when traffic doesn’t tank and business continues as usual.

We understand that a new site is a significant investment for any business but if organic search engine traffic is a cornerstone of your business, it could be a detrimental move to your bottom line. We don’t want to see all your extensive redesign efforts go to waste. Make sure your new site works hard from day one in bringing in more traffic, sales and business by baking in SEO from the start.

 

“We have engaged Reload Digital to help with global SEO migration during our new website launch. They have done an excellent job conducting the migration across 40 separate websites in a efficient and timely manner. I would highly recommend their services to any business thinking about redeveloping their website.”

– Sebastian Bacewicz, Digital Marketing Manager (Scotwork International)

 

A site migration sounds scary (particularly if you are reading about it for the first time) but we here at Reload Digital are experienced and take care of everything and deal directly with your developer/team to ensure go-live day goes smoothly. For more information on our approach to SEO website migrations, visit our SEO Migration Consulting Service page.

Don’t leave it too late in the process to talk to us about your new website. Call 020 7734 8273, it could be the smartest thing you do this week.

 

 

Rick Eliason

Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

Rick is Reload's most senior SEO expert, and started his digital marketing journey way back in 2007 as an in-house online marketing executive. Now with over three years under his belt at Reload Digital, he handles search and conversion campaigns for a wide range of clients from e-commerce and start-ups to large service-based businesses and not-for-profits.